It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first time attendee or a seasoned veteran, game fairs are hard to do right. There’s only a few days to make things happen, so a decent preparation is key. During the latest edition of our Expert Day Prepare the Fair, our experts mapped out a good deal of the road. During an intense afternoon of keynote speeches and roundtable sessions on various topics, participants were showered with knowledge and practical tips. Here are some of the key takeaways.
1. Set a goal
One, if not the, most important task is deciding where you want to go. To determine whether your participation can be considered successful, you need to set yourself a goal. Are you working on a game but do you need additional funding? Do you want to get the word out to the press about your upcoming release? Are you interested in developing other partnerships to, for example, get your game distributed in a foreign market or use your game IP to manufacture some cool merchandise? All of these things are possible at a game fair but each one requires a different plan of attack. Knowing what you want to achieve is the first step to actually achieving it.
2. Press tours are hardcore
The best way of reaching out to the press to showcase your new game development baby is organising a press tour. You can try to go through the hassle of contacting press yourself, but if you have the funds you can save yourself a lot of time and let a PR company do the work for you. As gamescom is primarily visited by European journalists, it’s better to work with a European agency. Do make sure you come prepared. You will be pitching your game every 30 minutes for three days straight, so bring enough water and rest up during the night. This will wear down even the most enthusiastic of your crew, but hopefully the coverage you’ll get in return will be worth it.
3. Do your research
Whether you’re talking to somebody at a publisher, a journalist or a streamer, it’s always a good idea to know the work of the person in front of you. It will allow you to easily break the ice and make your interest seem genuine. It also makes sure you don’t ask for unrealistic things. For example, when you go into a meeting with Devolver Digital, it’s good to know that their funding budget for studios they haven’t worked with yet usually is below $ 200.000. Asking for more isn’t going to get you anywhere, and you’ll look stupid for not doing your research.
4. Talk to the right people
It also guarantees you’re talking to the right people. Trying to get the strategy expert of a publication excited about your mobile runner game might prove difficult, and even though you don’t have any control over what journalist a publication sends over, it might enable you to put things in perspective. It’s even more important when talking to a publisher. The people scouting the show floor to sign new games usually aren’t the ones calling the ultimate shots. If you get the chance to have a decision maker around the table for your pitch, don’t hesitate to do so.
5. The pitch deck is your best friend
Even though you probably have a pretty solid grasp on your pitch by now, you never know when you’re gonna need a bit of support. The pitch deck can be a real lifesaver when words suddenly elude you and guarantees you’re not skipping vital information. The document is a concise summary of your development project. It contains your elevator pitch, some screenshots or a video, key features of the game, the tech you use to build the game, your budget, timeline and something about the team and their track record. Your pitch deck is a living document and you better have different versions of it to use with various profiles. For example: journalists won’t care much for the financials, but may want to dig deeper into the setting and inspirations of the game then your regular publisher rep.
6. Demoing is an art
Screenshots are good, GIF’s are better. Videos are great, but playable demos are the cream of the crop. Since appointments usually take about half an hour, it’s not recommended to demo for more than 15 minutes. A convincing gameplay demo has to show one or more key features of the game and ideally builds up to a climax of show stopping awesomeness. It’s a good idea to end your demo on a bang and leave the viewer longing for more. A good demo will take you a long way, but remember it doesn’t replace your pitch. You will have to keep talking throughout and as any beginning singer-songwriter will tell you it’s hard to focus on plucking strings while singing. If you can, have somebody else play the game while you hammer down the important points.
7. Don’t expect immediate results
When talking with a publisher or distributor: don’t expect immediate results. Some publishing deals can be signed in less than two weeks, others may take close to a year. In most cases you’re simply planting seeds that may come to fruition in the future. Contact the people you talked to and send them all the necessary information. If you want them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, you can, but keep in mind this will slow down the process quite a bit. Large publishers will have to run the NDA through several departments, resulting in severe delays. For the amount of false sense of security an NDA supplies, this usually isn’t worth the hassle.
8. Marketing is part of development
Most game developers rather spend time on creating their game, than selling it. While that’s understandable, it’s also the wrong way to think about marketing. In today’s overcrowded games industry, there’s few things more important than marketing your game. It’s just another part of your development process and you should treat it as such. Need a trailer to show your game? Put it on the board! Content for a Steam page so players can start wishlisting? On the board! A press release announcing the release date? The board. You get the drill. Putting these tasks in plain sight will get them done, whether you tackle them internally or hire a professional agency or freelancers to do it for you.
9. Journalists need a story
How do I make press write about my game (company)? It seems like a difficult question, but the answer is pretty straightforward: make a game worth writing about. In the first place this means you’d better have a quality product on your hands. Most journalists don’t write stories for themselves but cater to the interests of their readers. If they deem something interesting, they will write about it. So make something interesting! If your game itself isn’t particularly new, try to offer writers an interesting hook. For example: a lot of articles about Hyper Light Drifter were themed around the heart condition of developer Alex Preston. That story doesn’t take away from the quality of the game, which is visually stunning and overall amazing, and it will give you an initial boost in coverage to get the hype train going.
10. Streamers are weird and wonderful
If you’re over 30, there’s a really good chance you don’t get the appeal of streamers. To you, they’re just people blabbering while playing a game. As a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise you won’t understand how your game can thrive in the strange world of online influencers. As the streaming business is heavily tied to personas, different streamers create different communities with very little overlap. When looking for a collaboration with streamers, don’t focus on the big channels, but use hashtags to look for several smaller ones that target your specific audience. Just like publishers and journalists, streamers will appreciate a personal touch. Reaching out to them while on stream is the best way to get your game on their channel, as is offering them exclusives (content, early access,…) to top up the quality of their channel.